Word to the wise: book during work hours. Tell your boss
you're sick or schedule some emergency dental work with a
doctor who never keeps schedules, but going to the
California Academy of Sciences for a Behind-the-Scenes Tour
during work hours almost ensures that your tour group will
be tiny, if not non-existent such as it was for me. Guided
tours are awesome, but private guided tours are the
My tour guide was Lee from Minnesota. Lee led me up to
the living roof as in roof that has plants living on it, not
roof with a couch and TV and tacky pictures of in-laws first
and onto a part of the roof where no one else could go where
she showed me the whale bones they were bleaching for
preservation. Apparently, the California Academy of Sciences
is part of a beached whale watch group and will travel for
beached whales up and down 500 miles of California
coastline. Everyone needs a hobby, yeah?
From the roof, we went into the biology wing, where I let
into both plant and mammal sample storage rooms. In 20
minutes' time, I saw and held samples from the original
academy, saved by a scientist who ran into a burning
building during the earthquake in 1906 and then walked
through a hallway of ethanol-filled jars preserving mammals
not for the squeamish.
All throughout the tour, Lee peppered me with information
not only about the science I was witness to, but also the
history of the building and the practice of the academy.
Technically not a museum, the research done at the academy
disqualifies it from such a classification. Rather than just
be interested in preservation, the scientists there ask
where, when, how, and why about every what.
To the person who watches a movie, play, or even magic
trick and wonders, 'how,' this is the perfect tour. Five
stars to Lee, five stars to the California Academy of
Sciences, and five stars to the albino alligator who I'm
pretty sure was named Frank.